Calais Irwin, RMT
Registered Massage Therapist
The Easter Bunny has come and gone and we all have an abundance of chocolate and other sweet treats around the house, so let’s talk about sugar!
I think the most important thing to understand about sugar addiction is what happens in your brain when you eat sugar. There is a release of a chemical called dopamine into the nucleus accumbens, which is the reward centre of the brain. This area of the brain has a similar response when someone is using heroin or cocaine. Exposure to sugar can also cause a decrease in dopamine receptors, which basically creates a tolerance for sugar; thus, the next time you eat sugar, you need more of it to have the same pleasure reaction. A decrease in dopamine receptors won’t just effect how you feel after sugar consumption, but can also play a role in how you feel after all things you find pleasurable.
All Sugar Is Not Created Equal
When we talk about cutting back on sugar sugar addiction, we’re talking about added sugar (a.k.a. refined sugar). Sugar that is found naturally occurring in fruits and vegetables is much healthier because you are getting the added bonus of nutrients and fibre.
Here is a list of some of the different names for sugar (this list may not be exhaustive):
beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, dextran, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, ethyl maltol, evaporated cane juice/syrup, fructose, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltose, mannitol, molasses, raw sugar, refiner’s syrup, sorbitol, sorghum syrup, sucrose, sugar, turbinado sugar, yellow sugar
When looking at food labels, you should be reading the list of ingredients. The nutritional information chart may list sugar, but that could be including naturally occurring sugar as well as added sugar.
When companies create their ingredients list, they list them in order of the amount contained in the product, from most to least (i.e. there will be more of the first ingredient on the list than the last). As more people are making informed choices about their food and doing things like reading labels, the food manufacturers have started using tricks to hide added sugars. One thing you may notice is multiple types of sugar listed in one product ingredient list. If the manufacturer just used one type of sugar, it may be the first ingredient on the list; however, if they use three types of sugar, the quantity of each one decreases and suddenly those ingredients drop to the bottom of the list. While you think there isn’t much sugar in your food, it could actually make up a significant amount of the product.
Sugar’s Effect On The Body
Sugar not only affects brain chemistry, it also affects just about every other part of your body. Sugar intake can be a contributing factor to the following health problems:
non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, over eating, exhaustion, depression, wrinkles and sagging skin, inflammation and joint pain
Cutting Out Sugar
If you’re considering cutting out or reducing refined sugars, there are tons of great recipes and blogs out there. I use the search term “refined sugar free” plus the name of what I’m looking for (i.e. refined sugar free ketchup). You’ll be shocked at how great these recipes taste without any refined sugar!
Here’s a few of my favourite refined sugar free recipes:
6oz can tomato paste
1/3 c honey
½ c white vinegar
¼ c water
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp onion powder (optional)
1/8 tsp garlic powder (optional)
Combine all ingredients in medium sauce pan over medium heat. Whisk until smooth. When mixture comes to a boil reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. Remove pan from heat and cover until cool. Chill and store in covered container.
Carrot Cake with Cashew Frosting
(gluten, dairy, and refined sugar free)
3 cups almond flour
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 2/3 tbsp. cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil
6 med carrots
1 cup raisins
1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 325F.
In large bowl, combine almond flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, honey and coconut oil. Stir in grated carrots, raisins and chopped walnuts. Mix wet ingredients into dry. Pour batter into two greased 9-inch round cake pans. Bake for 35 min. Cool and frost.
¾ cup cashews, raw
¼ cup water
4 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ lime, fresh
½ tsp sea salt
¼ cup coconut oil, raw
Blend all ingredients except coconut oil until smooth. Add coconut oil and continue to blend until creamy. Chill for 30 min in fridge or until firm and spreadable.